books, reading

The Great American Read: Part 3

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Welcome back! Enjoy this final installment of The Great American Read (TGAR) discussion!

Remember, I include only approximately the year I first read these (I am not an elephant, my memory has flaws), and whether I personally made the decision to engage in them firsthand, or whether the powers-that-be of higher education made me suffer through them. (By the way, not all assigned titles will result in suffering…)

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (2011?, personal)

I HATE this story. Sorry, fans. I could get past the fact that it’s about a serial killer of teenage girls (which is horrific enough) if there was a JUST and SENSIBLE ending. The very notion of the murderer being done in by his karma is simply prepostorous.

The Martian by Andy Weir (2016, personal)

I didn’t finish reading this. I have seen all of the movie, so I know how it ended. But the novel is kind of…well, it’s not for everybody. Maybe this one where we should say, it’s okay to skip the book and go straight to the film?

The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks (2008?, personal)

I have very mixed feelings about this tale. I don’t really care for the author’s style (which is why I’ve never read anything else by him), but I liked the characters, and the focus on dementia is important and heartbreaking. Though I’m just not one for the boy-meets-girl, girl-is-already-involved, girl-can’t-decide sort of formula that this book follows.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (2017, personal)

I will admit: I totally judged Outlander by an advertisement. I saw a preview for the TV series — with the Scottish music and the Highlands in the distance — and immediately went, “WHAT IS THIS BOOK, I NEED TO HAVE IT NOW!!!” 50 pages into my copy from the library, I was hooked. I stayed up past my bedtime for 3 nights in a row to keep reading further. However, once I got about halfway through the novel, I saw some very big problems creeping up. One is totally the language Claire uses; she doesn’t act like a woman of the 1940s — she behaves like a liberal feminist of the 1980s. She professes to have a lot of knowledge about the customs of the time period she travels to, but does nothing to follow them, and therefore sticks out like a sore thumb, putting herself in immense danger. When she suddenly switches from insisting to everyone she’s already married to letting herself be wed to a near stranger as a political play, the rest of the book descends into Fifty Shades of Grey: The Jacobite Rebellion version. It’s sick, in my opinion. And a sign of poor writing, that evidently the author felt she couldn’t pen a romance without including graphic erotic content. Knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (2004?, school)

This is the only Jane Austen novel I’ve actually read and not just seen a movie version. And honestly, I won’t be changing that pattern anytime soon. Maybe it’s because of the era Austen lived in, or the fact women weren’t really taught creative writing back then, but I did not understand 90% of the text. The style felt more like pre-theatre-script or an outline than actual prose, and I never was able to grasp why Elizabeth Bennett found Mr Darcy so terrible (he seemed like a peach to me), or why Mr Darcy wanted to marry such a stuck-up snob as Lizzie. And the subplots, with the other sisters falling for men who were also apparently “scoundrels” (but, again, for reasons I couldn’t comprehend at all), only confused me further. Even after watching the movie, I didn’t really get it. But I’ve really enjoyed films of Emma and Northanger Abbey. Hmm…

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The Shack by William Young (2010?, personal)

This is another “Christian” fiction that makes me want to gag. While the theme of forgiveness and moving on after tragedy is important, I find the distinctly un-Biblical take the author puts on his portrayal of the narrator’s journey disturbing. Not disturbing in itself — I mean, if this novel was just classified as fiction, and not Christian fiction, it wouldn’t bother me in the least that Young depicts God as a big black woman who likes to cook. But the label needs to be there for good reason, and this approach is so incredibly against dogma and doctrine that it makes me cringe to hear pastors endorsing this title. It’s not a good example, not AT ALL, of how God (the Father, Son and Holy Spirit God) can help us heal following a tragic event.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (2000?, school)

I throw my weight behind this selection. It’s an African historical fiction, about the last days of tribal life in a country that soon became destroyed by war and colonists. It’s sad, but powerful, accurate, and important that we not let this type of history slip away from our collective awareness.

This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti (2007?, personal)

Here’s another Christian fiction that had me foaming at the mouth. I don’t recommend anything by Frank Peretti, and I’m shocked and ticked off that this title is one of the highest-selling Christian fiction novels in the last 20 years. I rolled my eyes about 14 times by page 25, and threw in the towel somewhere around the halfway mark (probably not even, realistically). Yes, because simply researching ancient Asian religions is going to let loose vile demons in your tiny town of God-fearing Bible-thumpers. Give me a break. Also, the formatting of the early printings is lame; the font is tiny and there’s hardly any spacing between chapter breaks. And I think the author didn’t understand the value of including character names in dialogue — a simple “Charles said,” or “Katie asked,” goes a loooong way in helping to keep track of conversations in text.

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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1995?, school, 2007?, personal)

If I had to choose just one to “win” TGAR, I think I’d go with Harper Lee’s only novel. To Kill a Mockingbird is charming, tearjerking, innocent, and profound; it tackles issues of racism and prejudice and disabilities in an era when people didn’t yet talk about these matters openly. Atticus Finch is the biggest hero dad ever, and the way he treats all the marginalized characters, from Tom Robinson to Dill to Boo Radley, just…insert crying emojis here.

The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer (2013?, personal)

Well, this is an interesting inclusion on the list! I thought these books were fun, a different take on the nearly-exhausted vampire/werewolf motif, but I have some issues with the fourth book especially, and honestly I was Team Jacob all the way. Truly, I would’ve preferred a very different ending to the series. Not just with Bella and Edward, but in general. (I could probably write a whole post about that…)

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (2016, personal)

After having repeated several times I’m not big on classics, why would I volunteer to read Emily Bronte’s only novel? Because for years, I ran around my house with a duster, singing, “Heath-cliff, it’s me, Ka-athy, come h-h-ome now, so c-o-o-o-l-d, let me in at your win-o-d-ow!” (That’s referencing the Kate Bush song from the 1970s, for those of you who don’t know.) And finally I decided it would be a good idea to find out more about the novel that inspired the song. It is definitely dark, it’s tragic, but the main characters are so awful to each other, you don’t even feel bad about their fates. Maybe Miss Emily was a bit grim and twisty?…

And there we have it! Most likely, I won’t be trying to read the other 65 selections (my TBR needs to be culled as it is). But I thought this was an interesting experiment — and for those of you who would like to see how many you’ve read, as mentioned before, the master list of The Great American Read can be found via PBS.com. Have a great day, everyone!

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books, reading

The Great American Read: Part 2

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Welcome back to Part 2 of this discussion! Continuing with the alphabetical list where I left off…

Remember, these are only the books on The Great American Read that I’ve already read. The entire list has 100 selections, and the master can be found through PBS.com.

The Giver by Lois Lowry (2010, school)

I’d never heard of this book until it was an assignment for a college course. Apparently it’s been considered a children’s classic for years. Who knew? (In my defense, I was a rather limited-interest youth, and if it didn’t fall into my immediate areas of passion, I just wasn’t on the lookout for it.) Anyway, I wouldn’t call it a classic, and I hated it. Dystopian isn’t my favorite genre, but I think certain stories/authors craft a good dystopian without getting too dismal and despairing. But along with the intense lack of humanity in The Giver, there is never any REASON given for why the society ended up so twisted and authoritarian. And in a culture ruled by technology and regulations, the concept of one person being able to transmit all the memories of an ENTIRE species and history, apparently by osmosis, is RIDICULOUS. I couldn’t get beyond the inherent flaws in the premise to see any value in the story.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2015?, personal)

Okay, Gone Girl is twisted, and twisty, and in some ways it sucks you in and you feel compelled to find out what really happened and how it’s going to end. But it also leaves you with a definite sense of unease, and it reminded me of why I usually avoid reading thrillers.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1995?, school)

Yes, this novel is not light-hearted or a fun read. Is it important? Yes. The Great Depression is an era too many people are already forgetting or passing over in history class. We can’t do that. Steinbeck paints a bleak, realistic, and sympathetic picture of these farmers and the period they lived in.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (1996?, 2004?, school)

Yes, once again, I was assigned the same title twice, in different courses! It’s definitely not among my favorites of Mr. Dickens. I do understand that it has valuable lessons in terms of not being too quick to trust people, or not getting swept off your feet by a beautiful but truly awful woman (or man). There are powerful hints in there about the problem with wealth covering up mental illness and people trying to buy happiness. Again, it’s an important sort of tale, just not one I’ll volunteer to ingest.

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The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1996?, school)

In many ways, The Great Gatsby could be called the modern Great Expectations. Gatsby is a self-made man, hoping to win the heart of a physically stunning but horribly selfish and conceited woman. This is a hard book to read, too, not because of the subject matter, but because so many of the characters are downright unlikable, and you can’t even root for Gatsby because he wants in with these massive jerks. You’ll never find me picking this one up again.

Harry Potter by JK Rowling (2000-2011, personal)

This is one of the few on the list I wholeheartedly concur with, and already recommend it to anyone who hasn’t read the series. White Fang and I are excited to start it with Muffin one day. I’m even going to invest in the new illustrated series before he’s old enough (and yes, partly because White Fang and I want to drool over them first). I could wax poetic about HP for a whiiiiile, so I’ll spare you in this moment, so that we can get through the rest of this post within a timely manner…

The Help by Kathryn Stockett (2012?, personal)

I did not like this story at all. It should have no place on the platform of the discussion about race. I was horrified by the way the black maids were treated, even in the era of Jim Crow rules. And the narrator was incredibly irresponsible, treating these women as if they were a sideshow, costing them their jobs, and then swanning off to New York for a big job as a journalist. I rarely advocate destroying books, but this one…I’m sorely tempted.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (2003, 2007, 2015, personal)

Okay, so I’ve read this a lot — what’s it to ya? It’s one of the sci-fi greats. And as a rule, I am not a sci-fi fan. Adams’ clever humor and brilliant and subtle insights into human behavior make for an excellent space adventure. It’s also a title I already yell at everyone to read it. Multiple times. And then start using the quotes in your everyday life. Every day.

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The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (2011, personal)

The reason I picked this one up was because all my co-workers at the time literally shoved it at me and declared, “Start reading!” As previously stated, I don’t really do dystopia, so I wasn’t going to read this of my own accord. I really, really wish I’d stuck to my guns. Book 1 was riveting, actually funny in places, then had a twist that was just SO UNFAIR I wanted to tear out the remaining pages and write my own ending. (For those of you who are wondering, it’s the fact that Peeta lost his leg after all Katniss did to save it, and the one-time exception about a pair of Tributes from the same District getting to win being a trick.) I skipped book 2 (to this day I’ve only seen the movie), finished book 3, and then proceeded to writhe in anguish and curse the author’s career. Yup, it was that brutal. I couldn’t stand Katniss well before the end of book 3, and honestly, I don’t recommend this series to anyone.

Left Behind by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins (2007?, personal)

I didn’t even make it to the end of the first book in this series. It feels so trite, so patronizing, and paints a very, very narrow worldview of who’s deserving of God’s mercy. Sorry, folks, but I just don’t buy it. I know that puts me at odds with many evangelicals nationwide, but I have a more liberal view of end-of-the-world theories than the writers of these novels. And I’m allowed to be of the opinion that they’re not good fiction, Christian or otherwise.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1989?, personal)

Like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, this was a classic I chose to read at a young age. Again, I’m really not sure why, as I wasn’t big on historical fiction, and I didn’t understand probably 70% of the content. I came to appreciate this story much more as an adult, after I knew about what it was like to be a middle-class women during the Civil War.

Looking for Alaska by John Green (2013?, personal)

Some of my students (the older ones) were reading John Green novels, and I wanted to see what all the hype was. I grabbed Looking for Alaska off the library shelf randomly. I didn’t like it one bit. It’s condescending towards teenagers who actually like and respect their parents, who don’t spend their free time getting drunk and having sex, and suicide and instalove are glamorized. I truly feel anything by John Green should be nowhere near a list of 100 books recommended to everybody.

The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien (2005?, personal)

Confession: I watched the movies first. No one throw things. I did allow myself to get talked into reading the books afterwards. But, moment of absolute truth here, seeing the films first was vital to my understanding and enjoying the story. Professor Tolkien’s writing style is meandering, wordy, and by turns enchanting and frustrating. It took me months to get through each volume, because of the pages and pages were not much happens, and poems and songs in invented languages were randomly thrown in, like, in the middle of a fight scene or something. It was very hard for me to follow or get into that style. While I am glad I read the trilogy, I don’t think I will again. Sorry, fans.

All right, that’s it for this time! Moving on to Part 3 next!

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books, reading

The Great American Read: Part 1

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Recently I mentioned The Great American Read (TGAR), and how part of the Summer Reading Challenge my local library is hosting this year involves encouraging patrons to see how many of the list they can check off. When I downloaded the master list, I was pleased (and surprised) to find I’ve already read 35 of the selections. Some of the others I’ve heard of but not read, never heard of, have no intention of ever reading, or may attempt one day. But in the next few posts, we’re going to be focusing on the ones I have completed.

Books on the List I Have Read (as well as approximately in which year, and for school or by personal choice):

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (1988?, personal)

This was one of the few classics I remember hanging around in my childhood that I actually read. Or had read to me. Honestly, I’m a little fuzzy on the details. I do know it was finished at least twice, because I recall enough of the plot and characters to confirm certain things which would’ve only come from more than a quick bedtime read. Anyway, I’m truly not sure why I wanted to pick this one, as a child who was much more into fantasy than historical fiction. I didn’t even realize how important Mark Twain was to the country at that point. And there was a lot about the dialect and time period I didn’t understand, so it was hard to follow stuff like why Tom Sawyer got his friends to paint the fence for him. (Since I was living in a town/era when painting a fence was an utterly alien concept, or the fact it was actually an arduous chore.) I did get that Tom had a massive crush on Becky Thatcher, and that people felt she deserved better than that silly boy (but again, I never grasped why the townspeople all thought that of him).

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (1987?, personal)

This I volunteered to read, and happily re-read several times. I loved the characters (especially Alice, the Cheshire Cat, the Caterpillar, the March Hare, and Dinah). I’ve seen a few of the movie and TV adaptations, and enjoyed most of them. My favorite was the Syfy modern version; Alice and Hatter were adorable together.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (2010?, personal)

This title came recommended by one of my Early Childhood professors. She thought it was a unique storytelling style, about a very important topic (WW II), from the unusual POV of a German citizen during the time period. I agreed. It was a bit hard to get into the author’s rambling, at times nearly neurotransmitter-misfiring style, but I found the story very precious, and cried so much at the end.

Charlotte’s Web by EB White (1989?, school)

First introduced to me in third or fourth grade, I believe, via whichever teacher was insistent we students read it, carrying on the tradition, Charlotte’s Web is a title that changed for me as I grew up. At first, I was so taken with poor Wilbur’s plight, and Charlotte’s doting, motherly ways — but I think that’s how the author sucks innocent children in, to destroy their hearts later. Yes, I am aware livestock on farms become food all the time — and since I’m not a vegetarian, I’m part of that, and I accept it. This isn’t a novel I’d recommend for children anymore. I really feel there are other works that humanize animal motivations and feelings in an engaging and entertaining way without deviously pushing an agenda.

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The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis (1990, 2007-08, personal)

loved the old BBC movies of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as a kid, and really enjoyed the book the first time around. White Fang truly liked the whole series, but most of the books I just found dull and dragging. White Fang’s faves were Prince Caspian and Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker (2005, school)

I liked this book a lot more than I expected to. I’d seen the movie, and wasn’t that impressed, and slightly terrified. I knew the story covered the harsh realities of domestic violence, and the high rate of abuse against women in the post-Civil-War black community. (If I remember correctly, it’s set in the early 20th century.) But the novel has layers upon layers of deep insight, into not just the abuse, but also what it may mean to be a woman, at different times in society and different cultures, how women can change their circumstances, or how circumstances may fight against them, and how sisterhood (not necessarily blood) can bring an abused woman out of darkness. It’s quite an interesting, controversial, and important tale.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (2009, personal)

I cried and raged by page 30 of this novel. I was SO upset by the obvious ignorance and prejudice shown against the autistic narrator. I skimmed a big chunk of the middle, and was so distraught by the end I honestly don’t even remember what happened in the resolution. I don’t recommend this title as an autism rep read. Not at all. It’s just so sad and agonizing.

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown (2008?, personal)

I had to see what all the fuss was about. The novel itself is wordy, there are too many subplots, and I really prefer the movie version. If you do your research, you’ll find NONE of the conspiracy theory offered in the book is new; Dan Brown drew on old theories or legends that had been around for centuries. Is any of it true? Some of it, yes — for example, the Knights Templar were long believed to have found an artifact or relic from the Temple of Solomon that was considered lost to history, and that the Catholic Church at the time would have seen it as very threatening to their hold on world affairs. (Many Popes back in the Middle Ages were not nice fellows.) Is there absolute proof that Jesus of Nazareth was married to Mary Magdalene and they had children? Not a stitch. Does it make for an awesome story? Totally. Even as a Christian, I honestly thought the idea of there being living descendants of such an influential historical figure (not bringing  religious beliefs or discussions into it at all), that may actually have the ability to, say, perform miracles in a modern, secular world, was quite beautiful. Just for the record, though, I don’t think the Priory of Scion really exists, or ever did.

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Dune by Frank Herbert (2004?, personal)

I was kind of forced. I never made it through the entire tome. I’ve seen the whole movie (which took about 3 days to watch, and approximately 3 years off my life). Sorry, any fans, but this is not for me at all.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1995?, 2005?, school)

Yes, I’ve actually had to read this for English classes twice. I understood it more the second time around, but didn’t like it more. I feel SO bad for the “monster,” and Dr. Frankenstein needs to be sacrificed to medical science. Give me the Mel Brooks version any day.

Game of Thrones by George RR Martin (2017, personal)

I watched 3 or 4 episodes of the show and wanted to die. I could not stand the INTENSE profanity, violence, and explicit sexual content (especially the misogny). (And Boromir — ahem, Sean Bean — gets killed off in season 1! Is there no justice?!) But my social media feed kept picking up ravings (in a good way) about the series, so I checked book 1 out of the library. I was impressed. Martin is a true wordsmith in his early works — the story draws you in, setting and characters come alive, the danger feels too real, the emotions of Ned Stark and the Khaleesi Daenerys and Tyrion Lancaster are SO palpable. The last chapter literally brought me to tears. Martin’s world in text is compelling, perilous, and very unfair, but I understood the bloodshed and the mistreatment of women so much more as a historical/cultural reference, and not necessarily something the author agreed with or condoned. I’ve decided not to finish the series (at least not now), but I’m not ashamed of having read the original novel that launched an epic fantasy empire.

And there we have it for now! Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3!

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blogging, books

“You Have To Read This”

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How many times have we all heard that? How many times have we said it (shouted it?) to someone else?

How many times have we followed the directive and been enthralled? How often have we followed the directive, and felt let down?

Recently, I joined the adult book club at my local library. If you’re thinking this doesn’t sound like me, you’d be right. And I joined the local writers’ group (not necessarily published, just writing) as well! What is wrong with this moth?! Well, as much as I don’t seek out socialization, and can only handle small doses of being around other people I hardly know, there are reasons I went head-on into this.

Reason 1: While I love my online writing/reading community, they are not always available to share thoughts, since we all live in different time zones and have varying in-person schedules. However, it meant that I realized I need to branch out in this area. And I do live within walking distance of the library, and the events there are held pretty regularly.

Reason 2: If I never go stray from YA fantasy, eventually I will run out of new books to devour. This is not a good thing for the creative soul. We need to refresh what we take in, not just crazily produce. So, I figured it would be good for me to branch out in this regard as well.

April is National Poetry Month (at least in America), so the librarian had a local poet come in and speak to the book club group.

Poetry and I have a complicated relationship; I understand poetry, but I don’t always like it. Poems that really explore the existential crisis of man are really not my thing. So, of course, this speaker was a writer of the latter. Oh, well. She was a very interesting speaker, with a very interesting style.

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A Tale of Two Book Clubs

Above are her books (I believe they’re all on Amazon); “Traveling Through Glass” is the poetry collection. Lisa Harris has quite a lyrical style, and her plots and characters definitely focus on the existential stuff (which, again, isn’t much for me, but that’s just me). She researches a bunch on fading cultures (for example, the way Native Americans have become a minority) and world religions for her stories.

I have to say, though, that I honestly felt bad for many of the ladies in the book club, because they weren’t really fans of poetry, and some of them were struggling with the topic. I do agree that poetry can be challenging. My favorites are certainly the ones that tell a story, simply in verse (“The Highwayman”), or seem so straightforward on the surface (“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”) that the reader often doesn’t feel the need to dig deeper. (At least, I didn’t.) So, while I freely admit to sitting in the corner and not contributing to that conversation one iota, at least I was there, present, and taking in something I normally don’t.

Then we all received the selection for the next meeting: “A Piece of the World” (APOTW) by Christina Baker Kline. Never heard of the author, had no clue what the work might be about. Off to a great start on expanding the horizons.

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The tricky bit about book clubs is that you might get a real dud. This novel really irritated me. It’s supposed to be basically historical fiction, but I felt the author took waaaaay too many liberties, and I didn’t know enough about the real people in question (the artist Andrew Wyeth and the human subjects he painted) to be sure of how much was inspired by true events, and how much was the author going wild with “poetic license.” And I couldn’t get past that.

If was writing a historical fiction, I’d set it in a real place and time period, but with completely invented characters. I’d be too afraid of getting it far too wrong. After all, when you’re writing about real people who once walked this Earth, had real feelings and perspectives, family and friends who cared about how they were seen, it feels insensitive to get away too much from the biographical material.

The librarian even admitted APOTW wasn’t her first choice; her first choice got taken by another club, and she suddenly wouldn’t have had something for us to read last month. Luckily, this month that choice was once again available, so it’s our title for the June meeting.

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I love the idea of “The Dead Beat” (TDB). It’s not morbid, it’s simply a study of part of our culture. We do write obituaries for people who have just died; humans have done this, in one form or another, for centuries. These days, it’s mostly for the public record, and to let people know this individual is no longer with us. It’s a kindness. But, like so many other aspects of our society, when something has become so functional that it’s plain boring now, somebody wondered how we can spruce it up.

Hence, writing obituaries have become a literary art form. And while this niche does require a certain type of personality, I hardly view this interest as dangerously divergent or an unhealthy obsession. We’re all going to die one day; so, why not make the most of recounting our lives for those still breathing? Why not share our joys, heartaches, our triumphs, and struggles? As dull and mundane as most of us feel our existences are, I can guarantee we’ve all done something others would find amazing.

The Great American Read

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I saw the clip about this on PBS (one of the few channels I still watch). The Great American Read (TGAR) is a list of 100 books, determined by compiling data of consistently referred fiction titles within the last several years. Not just the classics, or the stuff on high school English curriculums. (or example, both Lord of the Rings and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy are on this list.

This summer, our library is encouraging patrons to tackle TGAR and see if they can check off a few of the boxes. Yesterday I downloaded the master list and checked off my own boxes. It turns out I’ve already read 35 of the 100.

Many interesting thoughts get brought up by viewing the entire list. Like, why are there so many British authors on here? (JK Rowling, Charles Dickens, Douglas Adams, JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, and more.) When the word “American” is in the name of the challenge itself? Maybe it shows that even the natives feel traditional “American” literature is in some way lacking?

Also, just how did they (whoever “they” are) determine what made the list and what didn’t? Is it purely stats of bestsellers? Why are “children’s” works like The Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter thrown in with Fifty Shades of Grey and Outlander? (No, I’m not kidding.) Some of the included are definitely controversial — such as Fifty Shades and Outlander, but also Twilight, Game of Thrones, and The Da Vinci Code. I’m not opening the floor to that topic (right now); I’m just pondering the apparent dichotomy.

There are also plenty of titles you’d expect to see — Gone With The Wind, The Call of the Wild, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. You can find the whole list online; it’s quite a diverse and intriguing selection.

And I am proud to say I’ve read 35 of them. Especially since most of those 35 I enjoyed, and agree with the concept of yelling at the whole country to read them.

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books, tags

The Bibliophile Sweater Tag

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Hello all! I’ve been tagged by Jameson @ LovelyWhatsoevers to give my take on “The Bibliophile Sweater Tag” — which, yes, equates reading to different types of sweaters. Personally, I love sweaters (although I like the snow I do not like the cold), so this will be fun.

Fuzzy Sweater (a book that is the epitome of comfort)

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This may seem like a slightly odd choice, considering the subject matter (magical killer sea horses), but re-reading this title always feels comfortable. Even the first time I read it, I never felt like the tension turned to actual peril, and I was always confident everyone who needed to survive would (Maggie Stiefvater is really good about not gratitiously killing off her characters), and I knew a satisfying ending was coming. This novel just plain makes me happy.

Striped Sweater (you devoured every line of this book)

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Honestly, sometimes I re-read whole sentences or even entire paragraphs in this early Discworld title, because it is just THAT GOOD. Pratchett was the master of subtle foreshadowing and wry, droll, and spot-on poignant (rather, tearjerking) comments about life and love. After reading it all the way through about 4 times over the past dozen or so years, I still get all choked up at particular scenes.

Ugly Christmas Sweater (book with a weird cover)

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My apologies to anyone who gets scared by this bizarre little creature. This was one I had a really hard time looking at (my ex-husband owned it). I am not a fan of horror, so I never was able to read anything by HP Lovecraft, though for some reason the depictions of Cthulhu don’t scare me (whereas this cover did).

Cashmere Sweater (most expensive book you’ve bought)

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Cheating slightly, because this is the most expensive edition I own, but it was a gift. The art is just astounding, beautiful and graceful, sometimes haunting and quite otherworldly. The stories within are definitely more for adults (not the Disney-ized stuff), but they carry so much Old World charm and just a bit of sadness. Truly captivating.

Hoodie (favorite classic)

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Not a huge fan of classics to start with, but I will always give Dickens a chance. A Tale of Two Cities is positively my favorite; the intense and ultimately beautiful arc of compassion and redemption in spite of human failings and suffering does me in every time.

Cardigan (book you bought on impulse)

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Complete impulse — I was pre-ordering the latest Warriors title for White Fang and saw that Stiefvater’s newest had just been released. I knew it was coming out in 2017, but I was going to wait until my local library had it. However, with one click, that was changed forever…

Turtleneck (book from your childhood)

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Although this was published even before I was born, I read it for the first time around the age of 9 or 10. It’s a great, realistic adventure that ordinary kids find themselves in the middle of, totally by accident, so there are no “chosen one” tropes or too much danger or unnecessarily harrowing moments. It’s appropriate for MG readers in any decade, and the main characters are normal, truly likable kids.

Homemade Knitted Sweater (an indie-published title)

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Since I can’t do my own (but many, many thanks to Jameson for the gorgeous shot of Rulers and Mages on her blog!!!)… Kyle Shultz has created such a fun and engaging series set in an alternate history/universe, full of mythical creatures and magic and a unique twist on fairytales. If you haven’t started reading these novels yet, get going!

V-neck (a book that didn’t meet your expectations)

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I had such high hopes for this one. I wrote a full review on Goodreads and highlighted it in my February mini-reviews. To say it certainly didn’t meet my expectations is an understatement.

Argyle Sweater (book with a unique format)

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Usually I just read text-only books (apart from some MG choices with illustrations, like The Familiars), so The Illuminae Files is definitely one of the most uniquely-formatted titles I’ve encountered.

Polka-dot Sweater (a book with well-rounded characters)

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One of the things that drew me in right away about this series was the characters. They always felt so real — and yes, these are talking cats. Among my favorites in the very early tales are Firestar, Bluestar, Yellowfang, and Spottedleaf.

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blogging, books, writing

The Past, Present, and Future of The Invisible Moth

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My blog is 3 years old this January! Did I remember? Not at all! WordPress sent me a congratulatory notification. At least once I saw it, memory clicked.

In January 2015, I started this blog with little more than a domain name and a lot of nerves. I knew very little about blogging, networking, social media, and really this whole world. After a few months, I started to get the hang of following others, blog-hopping (understanding that term), and not only building community (not “only”, though, it’s important!), but I was also beginning to get a feel for what I really wanted this space — my space — to encompass.

For most of 2015 and 2016, I’d been researching self-publishing options, trying to get a better handle on whether it would be for me, the possible pitfalls, and determine if I should pursue it, or go back to continuing attempts at submissions to literary agents.

Well, if you’ve been around here for any length of time, you know that I went with self-publishing, and it’s a good fit. I love being able to share my experiences and thoughts and writing process with you all through blogging and social media connections.

 

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I also get to use author platforms such as Goodreads and connect with my readers (and I have readers!) and obsessively stalk — ahem, I mean, have the chance to check in with reviewers, book stats for my titles, and find out what awesome stuff is going on with other indie authors.

To say that I feel blessed to be part of this community just doesn’t do the sentiment justice.

So, now that I’ve reached another milestone, what awaits for The Invisible Moth in 2018?

Well, other than I’ll certainly still be here with publishing updates, reviews, and probably the occasional giveaway, I have to admit that most likely I won’t be blogging as much this year.

Seems a bit odd after working so hard to reach my current status, huh? This has been a hard decision to make. While I’m definitely not quitting blogging, or even going on a hiatus, there are particular goals I want to focus on this year that will take more time than the universe is willing to give me. Since I, sadly, am not in possession of a Time Turner or a TARDIS, I need to choose how quickly I want to accomplish a, b, and c, and what I may have to set aside temporarily in order to do so.

 

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Hence, I really need to devote more of my waking hours to writing things that are not blog posts.

In the past, I’ve toyed with the notion of cutting back, then felt guilty, tried, failed, given up the concept, become slightly overwhelmed, and come back to it.

So, my new schedule for blogging will probably look like a new post once a week, and I’ll stick to reviews and WIP stuff for a bit. Once I get more of this stuff polished off (closer to summer), chances are I’ll feel like expanding back to in-depth discussions and maybe even trying new topics.

At the moment, though, there are THINGS that my brain needs to devote its energy to.

So that you have amazing stuff to read in the near future.

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Remember, I am still looking for ARC readers for How To Be A Savage — and a cover designer. I’m opening it up to a sort of contest format, like before, and if you’re interested in coming up with a cover for a novel about autistic superheroes/spies, drop me a line! (The contact information under my heading works for everything from inquires about book sales to submitting artwork to asking polite questions about Toby’s well-being.)

Here’s to 2018 being awesome!

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blogging, books, writing

Planning Ahead: Expanding the Platform, Attending Conferences, Confirming Publishing Goals

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Good morning! Hope you’re all staying warm!

Let’s get right to it — plenty to discuss this time.

One: The idea of me starting making video reviews.

Okay, the very thought of joining YouTube and struggling with all of their technical issues (and some of their not-very-nice viewers) makes me start to hyperventilate. White Fang has a YouTube channel, and some of his experiences have been wonderful, others not so much.

Plus, I do not extrovert — things like appearing in front of the camera. (The person who suggested I branch out in this method really needs to double check how well he thinks he know me.)

Anyway, there has been the recommendation that I could remain audio-only and do a few reviews with screen shots or something as background. Hmmm… I might experiment with that notion. I’d probably try out the first video on Twitter or Facebook, though, rather than just throw myself to the wolves of YouTube.

(Professional YouTubers have my undying respect. Seriously.)

Let me know what you think of all this!

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Two: I might try to go to a writers’ conference this year.

I went to one a couple years ago, and while I was only there for one day, and it was a small conference center, and I managed to survive the whole thing largely unscathed, it was still HARD.

Remember, the me no extrovert clause.

Also, I didn’t know anyone there, and I wasn’t yet a published author, and the market for speculative fiction (what I primarily write) just didn’t exist at this particular spot. Quite a shame on that bit…

Anyway, people are already flailing over Realm Makers 2018, and while attempting to attend this would be a WHOLE BIG THING for me (just imagine me running around my house screaming at the very possibility), it would be a lot of fun.

So, what do you reckon, moths? Should I look into this?

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Three: Firming up my publication ambitions for this year.

So, here’s what I would really like to do:

Publish How To Be A Savage before winter’s over.

Release Volume 3 sometime this spring.

Get the field guide out shortly after.

Make sure Volume 4 is ready to go before the end of 2018.

Here’s my back-up plan: Savage, Volume 3, field guide on tap prior to the calendar changing to 2019, Volume 4 coming to fruition early next year.

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Given that, after all of that, White Fang and I will start seriously attacking our collaboration standalone sequel (and of course he’ll be in school until June, which limits his availability for this project in the meantime), I think this is certainly enough to have on my plate at present.

Next question: Who here is interested in an ARC for How To Be A Savage?

Who here wants to design the cover?

Please form an orderly queue, over to your right.

I’ll be accepting comments on everything mentioned above until I get satisfactory answers. (Don’t worry, I don’t bite. Remember, I’m close-contact-phobic.)

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